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GWR Route: North Warwickshire Line

GWR Route: Banbury to Wolverhampton

Bordesley Station: gwrbg2483

Ex-Great Western Railway 43xx class 2-6-0 No 5339 approaching Bordesley on the down main line on 13th August 1955

Ex-Great Western Railway 43xx class 2-6-0 No 5339 approaching Bordesley on the down main line on 13th August 1955. The locomotive carries white lamps at each end of the buffer beam (class A headcode) denoting it is an express. The first of the three large enamel numbers in the three foot wide frame on the smokebox door indicates that this train had originated from Paddington. This indication system was first introduced by the Great Western Railway in the summer of 1934 to help Signalmen and Station Staff to identify trains from a greater distance, assisting them to minimise delays during the busy holiday season when multiple relief trains were frequently required. The system was continued and extended after nationalisation, although in 1959 the first numeral changed from indicating the train's origin to the train's destination. The subsequent two digits indicated the actual train or relief portion.

Locomotive No 5339 was built in January 1918 at Swindon Works (Works No 2711) as part of lot 207, with the average cost of the locomotives in this lot recorded as £3,773. These were part of a very successful class of mixed traffic locomotives designed by Chief Mechanical Engineer George Churchward and introduced in 1911. Unsurprisingly the 43xx class had all the typical Great Western Railway features of the period; tapered domeless boiler, belpaire firebox, drumhead smokebox, superheating, topfeed combined with safety valve bonnet and graceful curved drop ends. No 5339 was turned out in unlined green with brass and copper work painted over in deference to the period of austerity brought about by the continuing world war. The war also increased the demand for freight engines, both at home and abroad, with eleven 43xx class locomotives supplied to the Railway Operating Division and shipped to France in 1917 for use on the Western Front. These had been returned by the end of 1919, at which point the class contained 180 locomotives. With the usefulness proven, construction continued apace and by 1932 the class contained a total of 342 locomotives. The 43xx class locomotives were fitted with standard No 4 boilers operating at a pressure of 200 lb, which produced a tractive effort, at 85% of 25,670 lbs, classifying the locomotive in power group D. The maximum axle weight was originally 18 tons, 4 cwt, but in 1917 this was reduced to 17 tons, 13 cwt by moving forward the pony truck fulcrum. Those locomotives modified were marked with a red ‘K’ on the cab side until all the class had been completed. The axle weight limited the locomotives to main lines and some branch lines – route colour Blue. Over time minor modifications changed the locomotive's appearance; after 1926, shorter safety valve bonnets were gradually introduced and after 1928, when new cylinders were required on older locomotives, a new pattern with outside steam pipes were fitted. These assisted maintenance by improving access to the boiler tubes. No 5339 received new cylinders with outside steam pipes in February 1932. No 5359 was originally allocated to Laira Shed (LA) outside Plymouth. In January 1921 the locomotive was known to have been allocated to Cardiff shed (CDF), while in January 1934, No 5339 was known to have been allocated to Reading shed (RDG). Prior to nationalisation in December 1947, No 5339 was allocated to Carmarthen shed (CARM) and was also there in August 1950. No 5339 was withdrawn from Severn Tunnel Junction Shed (86E) at the end of November 1960 and cut up at Swindon on 20th May 1961. By this time No 5339 had a recorded mileage of 1,461,840 miles.

Robert Ferris